14 Of The Biggest Upsets In College Football History

Everyone loves upsets.  Well, not the team that loses, though--they generally hate upsets.  But other than that, everyone loves an upset. 


14.)  1993:  Boston College Over Notre Dame 41-39

What an intense game this was!  The BC-ND rivalry was strong in those days.  They played each other every year, and the hatred seemed to increase with every game.  In 1993, Notre Dame was predicted to be a national champion contender.  They were to face BC at home in South Bend, which at the time, was a big factor in their domination.  But the Eagles came to play.  With 11 minutes left in the game, they led the Irish 38-17.  Not surprisingly, the Irish fought their way back.  The game ended on a 41-yard BC field goal, securing the victory, and completing smashing Notre Dame's hope for a national championship.


13.)  2003:  Kansas State Over Oklahoma 35-7

When #13 ranked Kansas State was slated to play #1 ranked Oklahoma in 2003, no one gave them much of a shot.  Oklahoma was considered the best team in college football and a lock for the national championship.  They went into their game against Kansas uninspired.  QB Ell Robertson threw 4 touchdown passes, and Heisman candidate Darren Sproles ran for 235 yards.  Despite the loss, Oklahoma was sent to the BCS national championship, where they lost to #2 LSU. 


12.)  1999:  Cincinnati Over Wisconsin 17-12

The 1999 Wisconsin football team was good.  They had Ron Dayne at runningback, who would go on to win the 1999 Heisman trophy.  All signs pointed to a Wisconsin victory.  When they entered Cincinnati's home field, they didn't think a loss was in the realm of possibilities.  But as is the case with all the examples in this article, the favored team was wrong.  Dayne gave a routinely strong performance, but only managed to get in the endzone once.  Nothing seemed to go right, and the Cincinatti Bearcats walked away with the victory.  Wisconsin went on to win the Rose Bowl.


11.)  1998:  North Carolina State Over Florida State 24-7

Florida State was a powerhouse in the 90's.  The team regularly ranked high in AP polls, and boasted a national championship win in 1993.  They were solid.  1998 was no different.  They were again a high ranking team in AP polls and were expected to be a national championship contender.  But something happened against NC State.  Florida looked sloppy.  Future Heisman trophy winner Chris Weinke threw 6 interceptions and only 1 touchdown!  After the game, NC State fell back into losing a lot, and Florida State went to a bowl game.  They lost, but won the national championship the following year.


10.)  1985:  Oregon State Over Washington 21-20

This game is an example of a team covering the ridiculous spread against them.  Washington was favored by 37 points going into this game, which is pretty ridiculous.  Towards the end of the game, Oregon was down 20-14, a stunning score by itself.  Washington was forced to punt, but it was blocked by Oregon who returned the ball into the endzone.  With the extra point, they won the game.  They wouldn't win another game for the rest of the season, which made their underdog victory over Washington even more amazing. 


9.)  1975:  Kansas State Over Oklahoma 23-3

Oklahoma is a dominant football school.  They had won the national championship the year before, and were on a 37-game winning streak, ranked at #2 in the country.  Impressive stuff.  They were much better than the Jayhawks, a team who hadn't won too many games for the 10 years prior, and hadn't beaten Oklahoma in over 11 years.  Needless to say, they were unranked.  The roles were seemingly reversed on this day, however.  Oklahoma turned the ball over EIGHT TIMES.  That is a lot of times.  Kansas hopped on their opportunities and ran away with the game.  Oklahoma still managed to take home their second consecutive national championship that year.


8.)  1957:  Notre Dame Over Oklahoma 7-0

The Sooners hold a 47 game winning streak that still stands to this day.  Over 1,512 straight days, or just over 4 years, Oklahoma hadn't lost a game.  But on November 16, 1957, Notre Dame decided to put an end to it.  A fired up Fightin' Irish squad entered Sooner turf, while the Sooner entered the game uninspired, expecting a win.  In the beginning, it looked like they would get the victory they expected.  The offense looked strong, but failed to put any points on the board.  People just figured it was a matter of time.  But that time never came.  Notre Dame's defense held Oklahoma on each posession, managing a turnover in the third quarter, and a 20-play scoring drive in the fourth.


7.)  2007:  Stanford Over USC 24-23

When it comes to a team being favored, 41 points is unheard of.  But USC was favored by just that many points.  That means that the good people who analyze teams and set the odds pretty much considered Stanford a high school team.  Junior varsity.  And probably all white kids.  But Jim Harbaugh (yes, THE Jim Harbaugh) and his Stanford Cardinals went into the game thinking about one thing: winning.  Earlier in the season, Jim Harbaugh claimed that USC might be the best team in the history of college football.  Wow!  Talk about snake-biting a team.  Stanford ended up beating the mighty Trojans 24-23, a win considered the biggest statistical upset ever.  Such is the power of Jim Harbaugh.


6.)  1998:  Temple Over Virginia Tech 28-24

 Let's just put it this way: Temple is bad at football.  And they have been for a long time.  The '98 team was no exception.  They were having an average Temple season (winless) when they went to Blacksburg, Virginia to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies.  Underdogs by 4 touchdowns, the Temple Owls were down 17 at the half, but came back to win, defeating #5 ranked and undefeated Virginia Tech.  One Virginia Tech player was quoted as saying "We're the laughing stock of college football right now."


5.)  1942:  Holy Cross Over Boston College 55-12

Boston College's 1942 team was pretty awesome.  They were national title favorites, undefeated at 8-0, and going into their game against Holy Cross, they had allowed only 19 points!  That's ridiculous!  19 points in 8 games!  5 of which were shutouts!  Holy Cross was a not spectacular 4-4-1.  But they scored 55 points, and allowed only 12.  Most people expected the score to be reversed, except that Holy Cross would have had 0 points instead of 12.  The bitterly dissappointing loss would end Boston's national championship hopes.


4.)  1950:  Navy Over Army 14-2

Nowadays, neither team is a national threat, but during the mid part of our century, Army was awesomely good.  They entered the 1950 Army-Navy game a 21-point favorite.  They played like amateurs.  5 fumbles and zero endzone entrances meant Army would lose in front of 110,000 people, including President Harry Truman. 


3.)  1926:  Carnegie Tech Over Notre Dame 19-0

The name Knute Rockne is legendary among college football enthusiasts.  With a win percentage of 88.1 , it's doubtful anyone will ever come close to his accomplishments.  So certain was Rockne that his team would defeat Carnegie Tech, that he decided to take the game off and just chill in Chicago to catch the Army-Navy game.  Oops.  The gaffe would cost his team a shot at the national championship.

Carnegie was up 13-0 at the half, and angered over the Rockne's lack of respect for their team, kept Notre Dame out of the endzone the entire contest.  The game ball is still proudly displayed in Carnegie's locker room to this day.


2.)  1921:  Centre College Over Harvard 6-0

Today, everyone knows Harvard as the college for smart kids.  But back in the 20's they were the college for smart kids AND good football playing kids.  And this upset is pretty insane.  Centre College, located in Kentucky, was OVER-LOADED with students, 254 of them.  And the football team had probably 40 players, meaning that roughly 1/5 of the students played for the football team.  No one gave Centre a shot.  It was similar to the United States going to war with you.  Just you.  Versus the United States.  And you killed everyone.  It took until the third quarter for a score.  Centre put it in the endzone, but missed the extra point.  It wouldn't matter.  Harvard failed to sustain any sort of offense, which you've probably deduced already thanks to the goose-egg next to their name. 


1.)  2007:  Appalachian State Over Michigan 34-32

Many football fans cite this victory as the greatest upset in college football history.  And it makes sense.  Michigan is the most prolific team in college football, and were even favored as a possible national champion in pre-season rankings.  In fact, this game was a write-off.  ASU received  $400,000--payment for the thrashing they were SUPPOSED to receive.  And while ASU was not a bad football team, not by a long-shot, the numbers favored Michigan.  Future NFL draft picks, scholarships galore, and 110,000 people rooting them on.  The odds were no doubt in favor of the Wolverines.  It's currently the first and only time a ranked Division 1 team has ever lost to an unranked Division 1AA team.

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October 13. 2008 08:10


You guys do know that Kansas State and Kansas are two different schools? You've got Kansas' mascot up there. Kansas State is the Wildcats.

MadtownVan us

October 14. 2008 03:06


How much do you pay your editors? Anything? Do you even have editors? #3 upset? Carnegie Tech over Notre Dame? Pretty sure you don't spell Notre Dame "H-A-R-V-A-R-D". Probably didn't notice it because I stopped reading halfway through yesterday.

MadtownVan us

October 14. 2008 09:29


Fixed! Thanks for the heads up.

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